Princess Anastasia was born on June 18, 1901, in Petrodvorets, Russia.
On July 16, 1918, she and her family were executed in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Speculation arose as to whether she and her brother, Alexei Nikolaevich, might have survived. In 1991, a forensic study identified the bodies of her family members and servants, but not hers or Alexei’s. A 2007 DNA test of a second grave identified her and her brother’s bodies.
Anastasia was born Anastasia Nikolaevna (or Anastasiya Nikolayevna) in Petrodvorets, Russia—a town near St. Petersburg formerly called Peterhof—on June 18, 1901. Anastasia’s mother was Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, also known as Alexandra Feodorovna, who became known as Empress Alexandra after her marriage. Her father, Nicholas II, was Russia’s final tsar, and part of the Romanov dynasty that had ruled the country for three centuries. Anastasia’s parents married in late 1894, shortly after her grandfather, Tsar Alexander III, died of kidney disease and her father inherited the throne.
Anastasia had four siblings: three older sisters named Olga, Tatiana and Maria, and a younger brother named Alexei, who was heir to the throne.
In her younger years, Anastasia received her education from her mother, who taught the girl spelling and prayers. As she grew older, Anastasia was assigned a Swiss tutor. Anastasia and Maria were looked after by a governess, while their older sisters were cared for by their mother’s lady-in-waiting.
In the years following the Romanovs’ murders, speculation arose as to whether Anastasia and her brother might have survived the execution. Rumors circulated that they were shielded from the bullets by family jewels that had been sewn into their clothing for safekeeping.
Anastasia’s fate was particularly prone to these conjectures, as a number of women claiming to be the grand duchess periodically surfaced. Among the best known of these women was Anna Anderson, who, beginning in the early 1920s fought to prove herself the rightful claimant of Anastasia’s inheritance. Anderson’s suit was rejected in 1970, and the mystery of the Grand Duchess Anastasia remained unsolved.
Anastasia’s dubious whereabouts inspired books, plays and movies, including an Academy Award–winning film starring legendary actress Ingrid Bergman.
In the 1970s an amateur archaeologist found a shallow grave containing the well-aged skeletons of six adults and three children. He suppressed these findings from the public until the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s. A forensic investigation in 1991 identified the nine bodies as belonging to Anastasia’s family members and servants, but Anastasia and her brother’s bodies still appeared to be missing.
In 2007 a new DNA analysis of another grave, discovered near the first, conclusively identified Anastasia and Alexei’s bodies, closing the door on nearly 90 years of mystery and speculation.
Anastasia arrives in the United States
On February 6, 1928, a woman calling herself Anastasia Tschaikovsky and claiming to be the youngest daughter of the murdered czar of Russia arrives in New York City. She held a press conference on the liner Berengaria, explaining she was here to have her jaw reset. It was broken, she alleged, by a Bolshevik soldier during her narrow escape from the execution of her entire family at Ekaterinburg, Russia, in July 1918. Tschaikovsky was welcomed to New York by Gleb Botkin, the son of the Romanov family doctor who was executed along with his patients in 1918. Botkin called her “Your Highness” and claimed that she was without a doubt the Grand Duchess Anastasia with whom he had played as a child.
Between 1918 and 1928, more than half a dozen other women had come forward claiming to be a lost heir to the Romanov fortune, so some American reporters were understandingly skeptical of Tschaikovsky’s claims. Nevertheless, she was treated as a celebrity during her stay in New York and occasioned society parties and fashionable hotels worthy of a Romanov heir. Registering for one hotel during her visit, she used the name Anna Anderson, which later became her permanent alias.
Character and personality
Small Anastasia was a cheerful and a sociable girl, she adored different games and could spend hours playing with her sisters or even all by herself. Typical masculine habits didn’t pass unheeded for Nastya – she liked climbing trees, and sometimes, out of sheer naughtiness, refused to descend when she was called. Anastasia loved to weave ribbons and flowers into her hair, and what started as mischievousness soon came into vogue in Russia, which made the small tomboy feel immensely proudAnastasia loved her sisters and her brother, with whom she could play for hours. Once, during a soiree organized by parents, she and Aleksey crept under the table and started pinching the guests and acting like dogs. The tsar was very unhappy with such behavior and the little couple was punished.
Nastya was said to have been a talented actress – she used to parody her relatives and family friends; she was never offensive, but very funny and touching. The admirers of her talent advised her to become a true actress, but Anastasia just smiled and refused – she preferred to save her abilities for her family and friends and stated she had other “responsibilities.”
The grand duchess, though, was wonderfully slatternly – during theatre performances she used to eat chocolate without even removing her gloves, and as a result her face, hands and gloves were evenly covered with chocolate stains.
Anastasia was a true animal lover – her first pet was a tiny pom named Shvibzik. Nastya loved the dog so dearly she flatly refused to go to bed without it, and when she couldn’t find the dog in the huge palace, she would bark to attract it’s attention. In 1915 the dog died, and Anastasia was inconsolable for its loss – she would not eat and cried all the time. Later she bought another dog, which she called Jimmy, but she never forgot Shvibzik.
When the war started Anastasia and her elder sister, Olga, started smoking, though she did her best to keep it secret – Nicholas did not approve of the habit to put it mildly.
Nastya was a passionate reader – she could spend days with a book; her favorite authors were Schiller and Goethe, Molière and Dickens and the Bronte sisters. She was also a talented pianist and entertained the whole family with Chopin, Grieg, Rakhmaninov and Tchaikovsky.